Sunday, November 20, 2016

Are you lucid or losing it?

Dear Friends,

As I write, it's the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

I know several people who keep lists and think every day about the things in their lives that are good. My family and I enjoy good health. We're fairly happy and content. We have a lot of great things in our lives, and one of those great things is that we're on top of our lives and current events. 

One of my big fears is that I'll start "losing it." That my mind won't function as it has, that I'll lose memories, that I'll not recognize people.

I have a funky memory. I have a hard time remembering names and I've joked that my family should wear name tags but they refuse. On the other hand, I can outline a 2-day training session including exercises and deliver most of it with a bare-bones outline. 

I've also told my husband it might be hard to know if my memory is slipping. I take a lot of notes and make checklists, and contacts and calendars are in my phone. I'm not exercising that part of my brain as I once did, freeing it up for writing and other tasks.

I lost a lot of my childhood memories, and my suspicion is that some of it is tied to reminiscing with others. My parents were young when they died and so was I. Dad was 45 and I was almost 13 and Mom was 50 and I was 21. 

When Mom was alive, we didn't sit around and talk about our family times that had passed. It was too sad to bring up and I didn't want to upset her. My sisters and I did not often discuss our childhood and our parents nor did we look at many photos. It was too painful in the beginning and as time went on, we had other things to discuss: our kids, our travels, what movies we've seen and so on. Life moved on without those discussions so I did lose a lot.

If you have family or friends who would enjoy reminiscing, it would be a pleasant thing to do. I think it'd be good to find some balance between talking about the past and talking about the present.

I've learned from my experience with "Terry" [I wrote about this person in previous entries] that socializing is so important to our well-being. Each medical care person talked about how important it is to be around and interact with others as we age. This helps keep our minds sharp and may prevent dementia. You can go to Google and search for "socializing as we age" to bring up a variety of links and articles about it. 

The Alzheimer's Association has a lot of information about dementia and Alzheimer's, and that is a great starting point to learn more about these issues.

Best wishes to you all, and happy socializing!

Take care,


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Retirement Decisions Begin with Money and Health

Dear Friends,

How are you? Are you feeling okay?

I'm finally seeing the end of a series of viruses and will likely have a cough for a while. I don't bounce back like I used to but I'm a pretty healthy person and grateful for it.

It's About Money

When I started thinking more about retirement, I found so many links to articles about finances and calculators that my head was swimming. You only need a couple of those sites, a calculator, and a budget to figure out where you stand with retirement readiness. Our Finances page has a series of great links for you.

Knowing how much you will have to live on with help you decide if you need to work longer or if you're ready to retire. For me, there are some unknowns to explore. For example, I haven't yet explored all of the options in Medicare and supplemental insurance and whatever I learn about current options will have to be adjusted for possible rate hikes over the years. Math is not my forte (glad we got that out of the way) but there are websites to help with this. Having a budget is important, and Kiplinger has a good budget worksheet. Think of your budget in the same way you would think of building a house: it's your foundation and you can only build once you know the quality and strength of that foundation.

It's About Health

How's your health? Are you generally healthy and active? Do you have a chronic illness? Do you go to an annual physical? Do you have a good doctor who can be a "traffic cop" as you may need to see different specialists?

My fantasy death is that I live to an old age as an fairly healthy person and die suddenly and painlessly in my sleep - but I'm not counting on it. Many of my friends have various aliments and sometimes we have that stereotypical senior talk about what's going on with our health. Weird or unfortunate things happen to our bodies as we age.

Our Health and Safety page has a list of resources for you. All of them are reliable and I never post any link with "miracle cures" or a vitamin that makes your skin like a baby's and restores you to your healthiest point in life.

Understanding your finances and your health will help you make decisions about how you want to enjoy your retirement years. Maybe you'll age in place, maybe you'll go to an active living community, maybe you'll head for assisted living. Knowing where you stand now and planning for possibilities can take a lot of stress out of your life and relieve your family members.

If you have some comments, you are welcome to share. If it looks like spam or advertising, I will delete so it's pleasant for everyone.

Take care,


Monday, October 10, 2016

Will your next home be determined by someone else? Part II

Dear Friends,

I hope you're well.

With all of the events I mentioned previously, we've been on the run while I'm ill with one virus after another. I'm sure that's not a coincidence!

In my last post, I mentioned our family member "Terry" who has had to make a decision about moving to a new community.

It was such a difficult decision for Terry as there was a belief, as I suppose there is for many of us,  that Terry's home would be "it." No more moves, no strange places, no details to tend to. Just death at home and the relatives take care of the details.

The problem with that assumption is that one's future really is unknown. It's hard to imagine needing to change every idea about your life and independence when you've been healthy and active.

We go through life accumulating stuff. [George Carlin had a funny bit about "stuff" so I'm providing a link. His language can be a bit blue so if you're sensitive to that, don't click.] 

We save up or impulsively buy and treasure all kinds of "stuff" and eventually may have to downsize. All of those things you looked at and enjoyed for years may not fit in your new place. Cherished items like crystal glasses or china are expensive to buy but sell for a pittance. The younger generation doesn't want things you loved so much. It is a harsh reality.

Terry is now going through some items and it's hard to weed things out and think about how little money those items will sell for, if they can be sold at all.

I asked Terry to think about it like this: if you buy an expensive sofa and enjoy having it around for 30 years, you've gotten your money's worth. A beautiful vase has paid for itself by decorating your place and maybe holding some flowers. Getting caught up in what you think it should sell for versus the reality will only depress you.

If you are able to age in place, you might still want to start going through papers and clothing, old photos and memorabilia. I spoke with a man whose parents died within weeks of each other and it was left to him to go through a house they lived in for almost 50 years. They kept every love letter and card, new and used gift wrap and all kinds of other items because you never know if you'll need them. That situation only compounded his grief and then created some anger that this was what his parents left for him to fix.

If you have some comments, you are welcome to share. If it looks like spam or advertising, I will delete so it's pleasant for everyone.

Take care,


Will your next home be determined by someone else? Part I

Dear Friends,

I hope you're well.

We've been amazingly busy and somewhat overwhelmed lately. I'll tell you in vague terms (to protect privacy) why and then I'll write about living options.

My husband and I are not yet retiring, but we have considered where we'd like to be for the next few years if we're in good health. What we were not thinking about was the possibility of a sudden need for other care - where would we go so we could both be in the same facility? What would we do with our home and possessions? How would we be able to make a good decision while under duress? Would our son pick a spot for us? If not, who will help us? My sister? A niece or nephew? The State?

We got a call that made it clear a close elderly family member (let's call this person "Terry") needed to go to the hospital, and while there, we learned it was not safe for Terry to go home at this time. Because Terry's home is a solo home in a retirement community almost 2 hours from us, it was best for us to have a houseguest while we gathered information so Terry could make some decisions.

Terry told us about some things that had happened recently, and any of those items might have raised alarms for us and certainly would have sounded alarms for physicians. Raised in a time when people didn't complain, when people were fiercely independent and would not share information with kids or other family, it's very hard for that generation to share anything that is personal and scary with others including physicians. That makes it even harder to get the right diagnosis early.

We've gotten a good education as a result on possible options, and I've learned that several acquaintances are looking into the same thing. I hope this information helps you.

I have some links on my Housing page and some information about Continuing Care Retirement Communities, aka CCRC.

A CCRC is one where you can start in independent living, obtain assisted living care, move to rehab or memory care units, and some but not all facilities have hospice care. These facilities are expensive and many offer some information about how to afford them.

The places we saw usually offer studio or one bedroom with a small living room. Meals are included and activities are plentiful. One of the hard parts is accepting that one needs help, that we are suddenly really one of "that" population. The other hard part for many people is that the things you saved for, bought, enjoyed and dusted for years are suddenly too many items for your new home. Things just have to go, decisions have to be made.

When you're a healthy person, it's hard to imagine yourself as one who really needs help, but it is important to think about your own options.

As a result of this experience, we have determined where we will move as the need arises. This is too important to us to not leave this decision to others.

If you have some comments, you are welcome to share. If it looks like spam or advertising, I will delete so it's pleasant for everyone.

Take care,


Friday, August 19, 2016

Dear Friends,

I'm one who likes to think of my readers as friends I haven't met and my style here will be one of writing letters to y'all. I don't intend to write a lot of posts but will update resources.

ADDITIONAL NOTE ABOUT VIEWING THE SITE. I recommend viewing this site on a desktop or in the desktop view, not on a mobile phone. There are several links and it can be confusing finding the navigation bar. If you must use the phone, there is an orange bar that says "home" and a small arrow to touch for a scroll-through menu. At the bottom of the screen, you will see the options available and you can select one then click "done."

At a career planning event, a speaker said that most people plan more for vacations than careers. We look up locations, attractions, where to stay, how to get there, how to get around, currency, weather, language, and so on. Most people don't plan as much for their careers and often fall into jobs or become complacent and remain at jobs far too long. This has stayed with me as I feel it is absolutely true.

It made me think about my own future: what would my career be? What should I add to my skills? Where do I go to learn the new skills? How would I find my next job?

And it also made me think about retirement. I have read many articles about how ill-prepared many people are when it comes to their finances and interests.

I don't want to be one of those people! I've read quite a bit and thought deeply about how I want that next stage of life to look like.

Here's what we don't know: what's our "expiration date?" It would be much easier if we knew that in advance so we could plan accordingly. It isn't morbid to think about this: it's practical and will affect most of your own decisions.

The best we can do is look at family longevity and personal health, eat healthy foods and do regular exercise. We can look at mortality tables on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website for general information but we can't predict accidents, illness or other factors in your life.

I am making the assumption that I'll live to be at least 90 and be pretty healthy till the end. Is it practical? Maybe, maybe not. But it is a start in planning.

I've run through calculators and looked at present/future estimated income and savings. With a spreadsheet, I listed our savings, bank accounts, retirement funds and listed our assets including our home and cars. I listed our usual budget based on a year's worth of checking account entries. That gives me a baseline from which we can make other decisions. Do we move or stay where we are? How much can we travel? Will we need to reduce expenses?

That's the practical side of understanding finances so we can make some decisions about our lives.

Now we are looking into an important part about thinking about retirement - how to use that time so that we are enjoying life, feel active, engaged and useful.

I'm one who loves to keep lists of resources and I am sharing them on this site. Along the way, I plan to add to the resource list and update  you on my own progress. I welcome your comments and hope you enjoy this site.

All the best,